It wasn't until the last couple years that I began to really notice manipulation in relationships. I'd gotten out of a friendship where, in retrospect, I'd been manipulated a lot and it really opened my eyes to the myriad of ways in which manipulation was a big part of some of my friendships.
It probably seems naive, and I guess that I was, but it really took me aback. I hadn't known. I really hadn't seen it. But once I saw it, I couldn't unsee it, and it was a strange process. At first, I was just plain hurt that people I cared about would use those manipulative ways to get me to do or be the things they wanted me to do and be. And then I was angry that they would have so little respect for our friendship and for me that they were willing to use me instead of be friends with me. But, over time, I began to accept that I had a role in that too. Because while maybe I was blind to it, I had also allowed it. I had caved to the manipulation. I had reinforced the habit. And I had maybe even done it back.
What followed were two years of hypervigilance on my part... I was so tuned to the manipulation and so wary of it. I began to cut people out of my life who used it the most stringently. But I also kept most everyone at arm's length, so worried about someone else manipulating me where I couldn't see it. I'm not sure that was the healthiest way to behave, either.
Where I am now is not a bad place. My eyes have been opened. I am aware of the places in which I am most susceptible, and I am less naive than I was before. But, I am also learning once again to be more soft. To be trusting again.. but in a healthier way.